VR Arcade Open Business Plan: Customer Experience
April 2, 2018 | 21 min read
VR Arcade Open Business Plan
Tips for Creating the Best Possible Customer Experience
As a company whose ultimate goal is to help ensure the success of Virtual Reality, we strive to empower those who share the same vision. Using data from 250+ locations using SpringboardVR, we compiled a list of top VR locations and spoke with their owners to understand what they’ve done to be successful in the VR industry. Based on what we’ve learned, we provide some recommendations and best practices on how to run a successful VR Arcade in this section of our “open business plan.”
The Importance of the Customer Experience
Back in May, we wrote the VR Multiplayer Gaming Guide, and proposed the notion that a more immersive virtual reality experience results in higher customer satisfaction, which in turn generates recurring business and higher profitability for a successful VR Arcade. Almost a year has gone by now, and if you’re thinking what we’re thinking, you’re like, “duh”. So much has happened over the past year, and like many in the VR industry, we’ve learned a ton. We’ve also been able to meet some amazing entrepreneurs in this industry who have also learned an immense amount over the past year. This gave us the opportunity to sit down and speak with some of the top VR Arcade owners all over the world to ask the question, “How do you create the best possible customer experience?” Lucky for you (and us), they said more than just “multiplayer gaming.”
Based on our findings, there are four main components to ensuring that every customer that comes into your Arcade will have the best possible experience. We will dive deep into each component and see what these top VR Arcade owners had to say about each one.
Four Components for the Best Possible Customer Experience
- VR Arcade Layout & Interior
- Staffing & Communication
- Multiplayer & Social Experience
- Immersive Experiences
VR ARCADE LAYOUT & INTERIOR
Just like any first impression, the customer’s first impression when they walk into the Arcade is huge. It sets the tone for what they will expect the rest of their time there, and what they will remember when recalling their experience to their friends or family (aka potential customers). Below are some tips and examples of what other successful VR Arcade owners have done.
Tip #1: Choose a theme
Erik Madsen, owner of Arcadia VR Lounge in Kelowna, British Columbia, found that choosing a theme really helped him as he was developing and building out his business model.
“Pick a theme and stick with it,” Madsen stated. “Really use that to your advantage. It just gives you a ton of focus on which way you’re going, and you can really focus on the quality of the experience — just making sure that everything you do is revolving around the same theme.”
Tip #2: Think through the aesthetics
Erik Madsen also designed Arcadia VR Lounge’s main lobby and waiting room as a homage to the 80s arcades. But as a customer enters the gaming area, it is as if they have entered an entirely different reality.
“We have the computers displayed inside the walls. We’ve custom built computer cases that allow you to see all the computer hardware, and when we were choosing the computer hardware, we went for as much RGBY lighting as much as possible, so it really adds to the feel of high-tech, and kind of the new age of arcade and gaming”, says Madsen.
“We definitely do get a bit of that ‘wow’ factor right off the bat. It’s something new — especially for people that have never tried VR. It’s something unknown, high-tech; it feels like you’re walking into the future. It’s definitely a cool experience watching people experience that for the first time.”
Erik also says that his futuristic aesthetic even helps with PR.
“It helps you in marketing, it helps you in the aesthetic of location, and people notice it. So many times, the people coming in just want to play VR, it doesn’t matter about the aesthetic of it. But, we get people, on a daily basis, commenting about the aesthetic, and just really enjoying the atmosphere of stepping into the future of arcades.”
Your Arcade layout can also be a huge determining factor in the type of experience a customer has in your VR Arcade. If you want to learn more on VR Arcade layouts, you can watch this Arcade Layout Tour, or read more about Base Station Set-up in VR Arcades. Based on the feedback we received from these VR Arcade owners, we’ve provided a few tips below:
Tip #3: Make your single player station around 8’x8′ to 8’x10′
By standardizing your single player stations, it provides the customer with ample space to move around without disrupting their immersive experience.
Tip #4: Provide reminders to help the customer stay in the gaming area while staying immersed
Jason Van Hierden, owner of VRKade in Calgary, Alberta, offered some great advice in laying out your game stations.
“On the floor, we have carpets. Those carpets are exactly a foot smaller than the bay itself. If you go too far, you have another soft reminder that you’ve gone too far. You’ve backed up too far against this wall, so you’re not going to feel it with your hands, but with your feet. It’s a soft reminder that doesn’t break immersion.”
Tip #5: Make sure you have durable dividers
VRKade also uses curtain dividers in all of their stations. Jason says there are certain perks of using curtains:
“[The curtain divider] gives you a couple of advantages. The first one being, if you go past your space, all you hit is a light curtain. You don’t have a hard reminder that you went too far. If you had a [sheetrocked] wall or a rubber wall and you hit that really hard while playing, the rest of your play time, you’re going to play a little bit more timidly because you’re scared of cracking your knuckles against the wall again, right? You stay close to the center. You’re not going to be quite as aggressive and it’s not going to be as much fun.”
If you choose to use curtain dividers in your VR Arcade, just make sure the fabric is thick enough to block base station interference from other bays. Luckily for you, (not so much for Jason), VRKade learned this the hard way. “When we opened our first store, we used burlap curtains. The burlap definitely didn’t block it. We had issues. We would stay up until 4:00AM. The problem with base stations issues is it throws your head all over the place and you get motion sick. It took us about two or three months to build an entire system around these things.”
If you already have dry-walled or hard dividers, you may want to add ¼ or ½ inch foam to keep from damaging the walls and controllers, as well as inhibiting the experience for the customer.
Tip #6: If you think you need help setting up your VR Arcade… Get help!
If the thought of designing the stations, purchasing the right equipment, ordering the right materials, building out the stations, setting up the headset and base stations, and hoping it all works is giving you anxiety, don’t sweat it! If a custom build-out that you do on your own isn’t your cup of tea, a turnkey solution might be right for you. With a turnkey solution, the design, purchase, installation, and build-out is already predetermined and guaranteed to work.
Mark McFatridge, owner of Apex Virtual Reality inside of Altitude Trampoline Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, opted for a turnkey solution and was not disappointed. He worked directly with his turnkey provider, and really valued the collaboration. He states, “We developed a really good working partnership with design for our Arcade within the space allocated using his expertise in design and functionality.”
Through collaboration, they were able to solve a problem before it even came into fruition.
“After we had gone through with what we thought was our final design, we did one last measurement, and one of the things that we [did not consider] was one of our shipping docks. So we ended up shifting it, and ironically, it turned out to be a much better setup than we originally had.”
Apex Virtual Reality is officially up and running, and Mark could not be happier with the result.
“We’re really proud of the design.”
Want to learn more about VR turnkey solutions for your location? Just contact us here, and we’d be happy to point you in the right direction.
STAFFING & COMMUNICATION
Having a staff that loves what they do it essential. Great communication skills to the owner, other employees, and especially the customers are also a nonnegotiable must.
Tip #1: Make sure your staff knows it is all about trust
Erik Madsen of Arcadia VR Lounge puts it this way:
“VR is a trust thing. You’re closing yourself off to the real world. You have no idea what’s going on out there, and you’re putting your trust in whoever is out there supposedly helping you. So making sure not to abuse that trust, and making sure that you are there for the customer when they need it, is the biggest thing out there for customer experience.”
Tip #2: Let your staff know their worth
This is more than just a retail job. We are providing insight into what the future may look like — not just with gaming, but with everything. Your staff needs to know the responsibility they carry with each and every customer they interact with.
“The staff makes all of the difference”, says Erik. “If you have happy, helpful staff that are always on their toes trying to help people out — it’s huge. Nine times out of ten, that’s going to be your break point. If you have rude staff, you’re going to lose that customer immediately.”
Tip #3: Be deliberate in your hiring process
Jason Van Hierden offers some insight into what VRKade looks for when hiring a new member on their team.
“We look for Best Buy employees and we look for Starbucks employees. Both of those are already trained in what we’re looking for. They’re trained in a fast-paced environment. They’re trained for customer service. They’re trained for up-sells. They’ve already got a lot of the skills that we’re looking for and they’re not normally that expensive… We’ve had a lot of success with those.”
It is also important to know what a successful employee looks like, and even more importantly, doesn’t look like. Jason expounds:
“We hire slowly and we fire quickly…If you can’t learn, you’re going to feel uncomfortable because everybody’s going to be past you in two months.”
Matt Adamson, owner of SpacesVR in Courtenay, British Columbia, chose a different approach with when hiring has staff. “My staff is very … is it politically correct to say “geeky?” They are very geeky. They [are] kind of people, they love games, they love comics. I hired them specifically because they wanted more than anything to work at a VR Arcade, and then they also had some customer service experience.” He continues:
“I looked for those two things. Somebody who wanted to work at a VR arcade more than anything, plus had some customer service experience. It’s been working out well.”
Tip #4: Look for empathetic team members
Madis Vassar, founder of CTO of Futuruum in Estonia, had a great comment regarding staff:
“We’re looking for people who are good communicators, and can take on the perspective of the player. When they are in trouble, then how do you go about explaining what to do next?”
Tip #5: Find your successful employee-to-station ratio
We found that this ratio varies and is dependent on a number of factors. But generally speaking, 2 employees to every 6–10 stations seems to be the sweet spot for most successful Arcades.
Matt Adamson, owner, spoke about how they do it at SpacesVR. “One thing we’ve done is when we know it’s going to be busy, we’ve got a minimum two-people coverage. So, one of the key things you need to have is enough coverage for somebody to be running around taking care of the people that need taking care of, while there’s someone else who can still answer the phone or greet people at the door, or help the other people who need help.”
Note: This proposed ratio is only possible with a VR management and distribution platform like SpringboardVR. Without it, you’ll be lucky to get by with 1 employee for every 1–2 stations.
Jason at VRKade also had this to say, “We need four people to do our 32 stations. The numbers do increase. You can have one person per 10 bays, but then you still need that fourth person running around because on a busy Saturday, you are going to have a headset go down. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. You need that extra person on site too.”
MULTIPLAYER & SOCIAL EXPERIENCES
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, providing multiplayer gaming options is a great way to bolster and amplify the customer experience. But just loading up Rec Room for a few people usually won’t cut it. For the best possible multiplayer experience, it has to be social as well. But how does one go about ensuring multiplayer events are easy and social for their customers?
Tip #1: Build a business model around multiplayer experiences
“You provide [multiplayer] the right away” Jason of VRKade states. “We do almost exclusively multiplayer experiences. We do do a couple of single player, but like job simulator — we don’t have that one. It’s single player and we don’t want people to feel exclusive. It’s the exact same thing as I’m presuming you don’t go to the movies by yourself.”
Matt Adamson of SpacesVR had similar thoughts:
“Multiplayer is everything. It adds to the immersion so much. A game can be relatively [bad] as far as immersion goes, but just the fact that you can talk to your buddy and see their avatar while you’re playing the game makes you forget that there’s a real world out there.”
Madis Vassar also shared a similar sentiment:
“We always sell our experiences as a social experience. You come here with a friend, and either you play together in separate boxes, or you play with only one set of headsets, but the others will watch you from the screen, or cheer you on, or comment.”
(You can read more on the importance of immersion in a VR Arcade here.)
Tip #2: Provide experiences that friends can talk about after they’ve finished
Sure, experiencing VR for the first time, regardless of who you’re with, is an unforgettable experience. But if we try to see through the eyes of the consumer, we can make certain assumptions about what will be the most memorable part of the experience… and what will encourage them to keep coming back.
“It’s looking at it through the eyes of the consumer”, says Jason of VRKade. “The consumer loves to talk to each other and they want multiplayer experiences, so when they leave, they can be like, ‘Joe, you totally saw when I ducked here and I put my gun under the table there and shot you in the chest!’ You know, all of those things — you don’t get that in single player.”
Tip #3: Single players can still be social players
Madis Vassar of Futuruum expounds:
“Even if someone is coming alone, then we say that, ‘Look, these are new games that you can play with people from around the world.’ It’s still a social experience.”
Note: With SpringboardVR’s content marketplace, you’ll have instant access to commercially license over 43 multiplayer titles!
There’s that buzzword again — immersive. You have probably heard or read that word a couple thousand times over the past year or so (at least a dozen just from this article), but it may be the most important word involved in helping run a successful VR Arcade. Immersion is what makes virtual reality different than any other type of gaming experience. Sure, the games and experiences may be great, but it is the level of immersion that makes a VR experience unforgettable. Jason with VRKade simply states:
“As much as possible, we try to give people an experience that doesn’t break immersion.”
So what are some of the VR Arcade must-haves to ensure that every customer attains the highest level of immersion? These VR Arcade owners provide some insight.
Tip #1: Know what type of content your customers want, and give it to them
Based on the idea that the more immersive experiences will usually be the more popular experiences, Erik Madsen of Arcadia VR Lounge provides the type of content that is most requested, regardless of price or reputation.
“We want to have the best experiences that we can possibly get in there, so the content comes first; what people want comes first.”
Tip #2: Educate your customers with some kind of tutorial
Whether it be the virtual tutorials offered by SpringboardVR and Vive, walking through the controls with each customer, or making a tutorial video on your own, educating your customers is a great start to making sure once they are in the headset, they won’t need to break immersion to ask for help.
James Pollock, owner of Arctic Sun VR in Fairbanks, Alaska, took a very creative approach to solve this problem, and created his own tutorial video. He has found this to be extremely effective in educating first time users, and minimizing confusion and frustration once in the headset.
Tip #3: From the very start, it has to be simple
Erik expounds, “As for the experience when you get into VR, outside of the aesthetic; I keep coming back to that but that’s always going to add to the experience; but once you get into VR, just having a simple interface to get into games.
Tip #4: Provide an easy-to-use, in-headset game launcher
Erik Madsen of Arcadia VR Lounge provides his thoughts on on how a game launcher like SpringboardVR has helped his VR Arcade, “That was definitely one big thing in our success, is just that the HTC Viveport launcher, it’s great for in-home use… but it’s so complicated for somebody who has never played VR before. You’re going to turn them off just getting them into a game, let alone actually playing the game and understanding the controls. So just having that launcher that’s graphical, and you can see all the games around you and really experience the space before you even get into a game, it’s priceless at that point.”
Tip #5: Have a way for staff and customers to communicate
If a customer has to take off their headset or headphones to ask for help, that breaks immersion. If a customer has to yell at their friend they’re playing multiplayer with, it breaks immersion. If a VR Arcade is able to offer a solution to these problems, they have brought the level of immersion to an all-time high. VRKade uses Discord to solve these problems.
Jason explains, “When our techs are talking to our clients, it’s always through Discord, because if you have to pop off an ear muff or an earpiece to hear what I’m saying, ‘okay, yeah point at this, pull the trigger on that’ — I just broke immersion. You have to step outside of virtual reality to get orders for what you’re doing in virtual reality. We don’t want to break that immersion as much as possible.”
So let’s recap…
Returning customers are essential in running a successful & profitable VR Arcade, and a more immersive experience increases the likelihood of repeat customers.
The four main components of ensuring the best possible customer experience are as follows:
- VR Arcade Layout & Interior
- Staffing & Communication
- Multiplayer & Social Experience
- Immersive Experiences
All of the above mentioned components must work together in unison to make the customer experience as great and unforgettable as possible. Madis Vassar comments, “Every step of the customer experience needs to be great in order for it to be great.”
Special Thanks to:
Jason Van Hierden: Owner of VRKade
3 location in Alberta, Canada
Eric Madsen: Owner of Arcadia VR Lounge
Kelowna, British Columbia
Madis Vassar: Co-owner and CTO of Futuruum
2 locations in Estonia
Matt Adamson: Owner of SpacesVR
Courtenay, British Columbia
James Pollock: Owner of Arctic Sun VR
Mark McFatrigde: Owner of Apex VR in Altitude Trampoline Park
Little Rock, Arkansas
Was this article helpful? Stay tuned to see more articles in our series, “VR Arcade Open Business Plan!”
We’d also love to know if there is anything else you’d like for us to write about! Comment or message us your thoughts or topics and we’ll be more than happy to review them and get the conversation started.
Additional Links & Resources
- Starting a VR Arcade
- Presence & Immersion
- Multiplayer Gaming in VR Arcades
- Centralizing & Automating VR Arcades
- Base Stations & VR Arcades
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